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     According to Classical yoga all of the preceding steps of ashtanga yoga from yamas (restraints), niyamas (self observances), asana (stabilizing the body), pranayama (harnessing prana), to pratyahara (the withdrawal of the mind from outward sensations), all have been laying the foundation for the ability to control the mind’s field of attention in meditation. Meditation continues from pratyahara, moving the mind inward and then to a single object of focus.

     The last three limbs of ashtanga yoga are dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, which are collectively referred to as samyama. The beginning stage of meditation is dharana, which is focusing the mind on a singular object.   When the focused attention can be sustained for long periods of time, then it is called dhyana. (Traditionally for longer than 12 breath cycles, but who is counting because that would be a loss of singular focus!) Broadly speaking, the deeper state of meditation, samadhi, is when the boundary between the meditator and object of meditation dissolve and the object is so completely absorbed by the mind that ultimately only the object of focus exists without the sense of self-identity of the meditator.  In the state of samadhi the awareness of one’s own individual existence may disappear and profound insights can emerge through this unbounded mind. This is the moment of getting out of your own way. These can be experienced as “eureka” moments when a sudden new insight may arise. The unbounded mind is void of the restraints of self-identity and free to roam in limitless possibilities. The unbounded mind is a superconscious mind.

            According to Patajali, the author of the Yoga Sutras,  meditation is the mind purifier. It is recognized that by nature the mind is constantly active switching from one thought to another. This chatter of the mind is sometimes referred to as the “monkey mind”. Meditation stabilizes the chatter by becoming more refined, more present, and less subject to perturbations. A clear and present mind makes for a less stressful life. A mind stuffed with past hurts, and future worries can make a dulled or agitated mind. These negative impressions in the mind color and restrict reality. Actions taken based on these tinted impressions can lead to further disturbance of the mind. A dulled or agitated mind can end up behaving inappropriately. “The ultimate goal of yoga is to always observe things accurately, and therefore never act in a way that will make us regret our actions later,” according to TKV Desikachar. Actions that we regret can become fuel for chronic stress. A clearer mind makes better decisions and takes better action than a confused, distracted, or dull mind. 

     The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve this unbounded state that liberates us from the pain and sorrows that are created in the mundane world.  Yoga understands that we are more than just the amalgam of worldly experiences.  Meditation involving mantra japa (the repetition of a  mantra) is to unlock the negative burdens and obstacles we have accumulated in the mind and release them of their potency.

Patanjali's ashtanga yoga is an intentional step-wise process to obtain the greatest benefit from meditation, which is to allow the emergence of our true being that has been suppressed and deeply hidden from ourselves. This uncovering of our true being is joy-filled. This joy is independent of sensory experience. It is inherent and eternal. The highest samadhi is to know this liberated and fulfilling joy firsthand. This is the achievement of Yoga.


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